Bigfoot was a popular monster truck. Thanks to the efforts of developer Beam Software and publisher Acclaim, that famous vehicle in all its car-crushing oversized-tires glory was also a video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System released in 1990.
During the overhead one-on-one racing portions, does the A button activate nitro, or is it B? Do you have to hold the Up button on the directional pad to move forward, or repeatedly tap it? If you read the instruction booklet for Bigfoot, the answer is never clear. If you actually try to play the game itself, the answer may never be clear at all.
When the basic mechanics for controlling the protagonist in your video game are unclear, whether in the instructions or in the on-screen experience, you have a serious problem. This is only the beginning of Bigfoot’s woes, as it ends up as barely a “game” at all, but more of a digital experience marred with critical issues.
Supposedly, the plotline (yes, those roaring engines really need an expansive plot for motivation) involves Bigfoot and his rival, The Growler, in a race across the United States of America. At certain stops, they will partake in a top-down race to try to reach a finish line first, whereas other challenges will take on a side view in the form of a drag race, tractor pull, hill climb, or similar straight-line challenges. After each event, the player can spend winnings on vehicle upgrades. When the player loses an event, the game is over. Well, sometimes. Other times, the game just keeps going anyway.
The overhead races have an arbitrary, pointless feel to them. No vehicle can ever pass the boundaries of the screen; this means that, no matter how good you are, you can never be a full screen ahead of the other vehicle in competition. In fact, being ahead is an explicit disadvantage, since it makes it difficult or even impossible to be able to contend with oncoming obstacles like mud slicks or sudden forests (yes, sudden forests). This is poor game design. And by “poor,” we can accurately say “quantifiably terrible.” The designers failed to pay even basic attention to any detail, and had zero player interest in mind. This was a money grab: A quick little chop job of a game to try and, apparently, capitalize on the famed Bigfoot monster truck racer, or at least sell a few copies based on child impressions on seeing a big ol’ monster truck on the box.
The side-view races are, arguably, even worse. How do you make Bigfoot move forward? By alternatedly mashing Left and Right on the directional pad, then shifting gears by pressing A, but not doing either of these too much or too little, because it will ruin the engine and bring the suddenly-quite-weak truck to a halt. It is like the developers noticed the popularity and positive reputation of Excitebike, which has an engine-overheating mechanic, and said, “Let’s do that, but even more cumbersome and atrocious.”
Do the upgrade purchases offer any benefit? Maybe; but, even if they did, the opponent gets to purchase upgrades too, even after losing efforts, thus perhaps making any upgrades a moot point. Not only is the computer (or human, if two players actually want to torture themselves simultaneously) opponent upgrading alongside the human player, but the human player actually has to sit there and watch the A.I. make each purchasing decision.
The game has decent graphics, admittedly, but poor sound quality. Players should be able to tell that the trucks are supposed to be trucks, and there is scenery, and there are big brown swaths of mud and dirt. Most of the gameplay lacks background music; but who needs tunes, when you have the roar of engines? Even the little transitional tracks from scene to scene are a bit beepy-bloopy, reminiscent of Beam Software’s other efforts, such as Fisher-Price Perfect Fit and Family Feud. The sound effects themselves are just bad. The buzz saw weapon (yeah, the overhead races have weapons, whatever) sounds annnoying and not intimidating, while other noises just sound random and silly.
Is there another game quite like Bigfoot? No, not really. But should it be praised for its originality and creativity? No, not really. You can kick a piece of cow poop against the side of a barn for the first time, but nobody should throw you a parade. Bigfoot on NES handles like a one-wheeled hot dog cart and is bad enough to cast a dark, profound shadow against the very idea of video gamesas a whole.
Overall Rating: 1/5 Stars.